Superboy and the Legion prelude. Legion of Super-Heroes: The Choice is a long, detailed collection filled with xeno-political goodness; with the original team back in the spotlight, this could very well be the best incarnation of the Legion we've seen in over two decades.
My own opinion is that the Legion of Super-Heroes title can't work completely cut off from the events of the ongoing DC Universe; there's barely another title in publication right now that would be as closed off as that. That after September's DC relaunch we'll have a Legion Lost title specifically set in the present DC Universe suggests someone in editorial agrees. From the start of The Choice, Levitz establishes the Legion's proximity to the DC Universe proper with (albeit nonspecific) references to Flashpoint. A main plot point of Choice involves Green Lantern Corps's Sodam Yat and the search for the next Green Lantern; in this way, Legion feels connected to its fellow titles, and not entirely disconnected.
As well, one of Choice's major subplots involves acolytes of Darkseid kidnapping Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad's children, tying Choice directly to Legion's most noted storyline, The Great Darkness Saga. It doesn't hurt that the kidnappers in question look (hilariously, to Levitz's credit) like Jack Kirby's Simyan and Mokkari and the illusionary visage of Darkseid himself appears a couple of times. The effect, again, is for Choice to feel connected -- to major recent DC milestones like Final Crisis and Blackest Night specifically -- such that a new Legion reader might get the sense that these stories, too, "matter."
With this volume, Levitz distinguishes Legion from standard super-hero fare; if it were just another super-hero team book but set in the future, it might not hold my interest quite as well. Choice involves only one super-villain, well at the beginning, and otherwise revolves around the United Planets' mandate that the Legion induct their enemy Earth-Man as one of their members, how Earth-Man fits in, and the politics of settling a million displaced refugees from the planet Titan. The basis of the Legion concept has always been how characters from different cultures find common ground, and now the Legion is the only unified force in an increasingly fractured universe. This plays out more through how the Legionnaires interact than in their fights with nondescript rebels, making The Choice foremost a wonderful character drama.
The "choice" in question in the story is largely Earth-Man's. Though ardently xenophobic in Geoff Johns's Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Earth-Man appears to have mellowed by the time Choice begins, readily accepting Legion membership. His struggle to define his duty on his own terms, even trying and then refusing the role of Earth's Green Lantern, is the most interesting part of Choice, with Earth-Man the breakout character (one cover included, with Earth-Man leading the Legion, is eerily prescient). Still, that Earth-Man seems to be a true, honest Legionnaire by the end of this book (and even over his xenophobia, sleeping with the alien Shadow Lass) seems too easy, and it wasn't clear to me if the reader was to understand Earth-Man's change as honest, or if Earth-Man is being mind-controlled by Brainiac 5 or another Legionnaire.
In fact, my main complaint (though small) about The Choice were the moments of disconnect where I felt I'd missed something, either in an uncollected backup story or by not being as familiar with Legion lore. Some Legionnaires, like Matter-Eating Lad, have resigned without explanation; Lighting Lad has gone in search of his brother's missing twin (though when he found out about the twin we don't know); Shadow Lass has broken up with Mon-El; Tyroc has suddenly returned with new control over his powers, and more. Also, the book's cliffhanger turns on a seemingly minor character, Harmoni Li, perhaps being a time traveler, but it's Brainiac 5 who finds this out, when I don't believe Brainiac 5 meets Li anywhere in the book. It's these things, which Choice presents as a matter of course, which brought me a little out of the book, but not so much I wasn't able to find my way back.
I'd also add that The Choice, enjoyable as it is, just ends, without any real run-up to the finale; then Phil Jimenez draws an epilogue to the main story (perfectly penned by Yildiray Cinar, who will be perfect on the new Firestorm). Levitz seems to write each Legion issue as a self-contained chapter with ties to the ongoing story, which is a fine approach and contributes to Choice reading different from a standard six-issue, one story trade -- but it does bring the book to a sudden, anti-climactic stop. Obviously DC is making a big push for this revitalization of the Legion, collecting the six issues on nice paper with a considerably cover gallery and sketchbook section, but they've kept the credits at the beginning of each issue -- this lends itself more to Choice as a collection of single issues than a graphic novel, though it's a substantial book irrespective.
[Contains original and variant covers, sketchbook section, and a wonderful reprint of Cinar's Legion tryout art where the Legion goes up against a certain New Titans villain ...]
Legion of Super-Heroes: The Choice reminds me of what I liked about Jim Shooter's recent Legion run -- an expansive space epic with more talking and back-room double-dealing than fighting -- but this time, the story involves the Legion. Levitz's Superboy and the Legion made me concerned about his upcoming Legion run -- let alone whether a writer best known for his work in the 1970s-1980s could write in the "modern" style. The dialogue is at times a little stiff, but the story is good, and there's lots of it; consider me relieved, and looking forward to the next volume.